SHAWBURY United’s newly-formed under-23 team will provide a ‘pathway’ to keep more local players involved in the grassroots game, believes chairman Dave Richards.

United are launching the new side next season, hopefully in West Midlands League Division Two, two levels below the club’s Premier Division first team – although the revamped Shropshire League is also an option.

Ronnie Box, previously an assistant coach to first team boss Declan Allen, will manage the side, who are awaiting confirmation of where their home ground will be.

Richards, however, told the Advertiser the side would not be playing in Ludlow as Shawbury continue their plan to move back to their hometown wholesale by next summer.

He said: “We are trying to create a pathway from our under-16s and under-18s sides – and give the lads a platform to progress rather than chucking them in at the deep end in men’s football and expecting miracles.

“Over the years we have lost too many players, not just to other clubs, but lads who have just totally dropped out of football.

“We’ve done our research, asked them why that was and we found many have found the step up to senior football tough, sitting on the bench, and they’ve lost interest in the game.

“We want to retain those players and build a pathway to give them the chance to progress.

“It’s Ronnie’s job now to create a squad of players and develop them so we can give them first-team opportunities when they are ready.”

First team boss Allen added: “We want the under-23 players to play against footballing teams and be tested physically to make sure every player has the right mindset if they are called into the first team.”

Allen says the club has already received several applications to replace Box, who he admitted would be missed at senior level.

He added: “It’s a loss for the first team in terms of Ronnie’s coaching ability, the way he interacts with the players and the respect they have for him.

“He’s slightly disappointed to step away from the first team but he saw an opportunity to stamp that same authority on the under-23 side – he knows what the club is about and is the ideal person to take on the role.”

The first team, meanwhile, are awaiting the West Midlands League AGM for full confirmation of next season’s line-up but Allen expects the Premier Division to remain largely the same.

“It seems there will be four promotion places and I think it will be pretty much the same teams in the league,” added Allen, whose side finished the coronoavirus-curtailed campaign 15th.

“We’ve had good news in that the players we wanted to keep have committed to us for next season and the experience they gained last year will be vital.”